Summary and Analysis Chapter 12



After three days of starving herself, Catherine agrees to eat. She is distraught that she is dying and Edgar has not come to her, begging forgiveness. In a state of delirium, Catherine talks about her childhood with Heathcliff and speaks of her impending death. When Nelly refuses to open the window, Catherine staggers to it, throws it open, and claims to see Wuthering Heights.

In her next breath, she speaks of being buried but not at rest until she is with Heathcliff. Edgar finds Catherine in such a weakened condition and admonishes Nelly for not calling him sooner. She in turn goes to seek medical attention. During this same night, Isabella runs away with Heathcliff. The doctor arrives and predicts that Catherine will not survive this illness. Edgar, when hearing about his sister's actions, says she is now a sister in name only.


Again in this chapter, Nelly's reliability is called into question. Early in the chapter she is convinced that "the Grange had but one sensible soul in its walls, and that lodged in my body." This attitude not only demonstrates a sense of superiority but also provides a means of validating all of her questionable actions, thus limiting her own responsibility. At the end of the chapter she does not want to be "blamed for another's wicked waywardness." Nelly sees herself as Catherine's superior and determines that Catherine has no one but herself to blame for the state she is in.

As Catherine's condition deteriorates, essential aspects of her character are revealed. First and foremost, Catherine admits to Nelly "I'm afraid of being alone." Catherine is used to having someone — whether it was her father, Nelly, Heathcliff, or Edgar — tending to her every need and whim. She does not recognize that her actions and decisions are precisely why she is alone.

She makes other important revelations, such as her longing to be outside, playing like a child on the moors and claiming, "I won't rest till you [Heathcliff] are with me." Close to death, Catherine longs for the time in her life when she was most happy — her childhood. Her comments about not resting foreshadow the restlessness Heathcliff experiences after her death, illustrating yet again the connection they have with one another.

Catherine is most cruel when she is most honest, telling her husband, "I don't want you, Edgar; I'm past wanting you." She expected Edgar to tend to her in her weakened state, oblivious to the torment and anguish to which she has subjected him. Edgar did not meet her timetable and therefore, is no longer needed. In a way, Catherine enjoys playing the martyr, feeling she will suffer for her love.


pertinaciously stubbornly.

gruel thin, easily digested porridge made by cooking meal in water or milk.

elf-bolts flint arrowheads.

paroxysm a sudden outburst.

tumult confusion.

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